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Update on Debt Negotiations from Joe Stanton @ NAHB

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Senator Reid postponed the Senate vote last night just after 10pm to give the White House and republican leaders more time to negotiate on a compromise deal on raising the debt ceiling. This vote is now scheduled for 1pm this afternoon if no deal is reached. Although this is positive news there are still many elements to be finalized and a ways to go before a final deal can be reached. If a deal is reached in the Senate, it will need strong bipartisan support in order for the House to find enough votes to pass.

Outlines of Debt Compromise Emerge

An announcement could come as early as Sunday afternoon.

by Major Garrett

Updated: July 30, 2011 | 11:27 p.m.

July 30, 2011 | 11:26 p.m.

Here are the outlines of a debt-ceiling deal that congressional leaders and the Obama White House are firming up in preparation for a possible announcement as early as Sunday afternoon.

In many respects, the deal will, if approved by all parties, resemble the contours of a short-lived pact negotiated last weekend by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Obama rejected that deal, forcing Congress to wrestle with other inferior legislative options throughout the week.

Among the newest wrinkles, according to informed sources, is an agreement to extend the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling very briefly to give the legislative process time to work without resorting to emergency, hurry-up measures.

President Obama has said he would only sign a short-term extension (days, not weeks) if it were linked to an extension of borrowing authority that lasts beyond the 2012 election.

According to sources, the Senate would use the military construction appropriations bill, one currently available for action, as the vehicle for the short-term extension. This element of the arrangement, like everything else, is subject to modification. But those close to the negotiations expect Congress to slow things down without jeopardizing the nation’s full faith and credit. A debt extension of days would achieve that goal.

Other component parts of the tentative deal include:

$2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called super committee.

The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.

The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.

If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.

No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberations.

Don’t miss the upcoming Webinars focusing on Universal Design

Upcoming Webinars to Focus on Universal Design

Two upcoming webinars presented by NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council and sponsored by MASCO Cabinetry will explore universal design. “Reimagining Universal Design 2 — No-Step Entrances, Exteriors and the Surrounding Community on Aug. 3 will focus on teaching builders and designers how to overcome design, engineering and cost challenges when incorporating universal design elements in their projects. Participants will also learn how to apply universal design to community spaces and make neighborhoods sustainable and livable for all residents. Attendees of “Reimagining Universal Design 3 – UD Product Showcase on Aug. 10 will learn about the innovative products featured on the NAHB 50+ Housing Council’s Universal Design Product Tour at the 2011 NAHB International Builders’ Show and other leading industry trade shows.

Participants can earn one hour of continuing education credit toward their designations. The registration fee for each webinar is $19.95 for NAHB 50+ Housing Council members, $24.95 for NAHB members and $44.95 for non-members. To register online, visit the NAHB Webinar Wednesdays registration page; or contact NAHB’s Office of the Registrar at 800-368-5242, x8338.

Debt Limit Update from Joe Stanton, NAHB

The House is adding future consideration of the Balanced Budget Amendment to their debt limit legislation, the Budget Control Act (BCA).  This will be viewed as a “poison pill” for Senate Democrats.  But, by adding the BBA provision, the House takes a proven popular poll tested concept and forces Senate Democrats to vote against  an issue that could prove to be an effective 2012 campaign advertisement.  Republican Leaders will argue that their bills are the only bi-partisan solutions (5 Dems supported Cut Cap & Balance) to the debt crisis that has passed one of the Congressional chambers.

 

We are hearing that the House GOP Leaders are considering scheduling the Reid debt limit bill for an up or down vote this weekend, to make the point that it cannot pass the House of Representatives.

 

We are also hearing that the Senate will consider the House-passed bill late tonight, to make the point that it cannot pass the U.S. Senate, leaving four days until the August 2nd deadline.

 

A major factor impacting a compromise is the sheer exhaustion by Members of Congress.  There are an increasing number of rank and file Republicans who realize the Aug 2nd issue is a real threat and are looking forward to dealing with this issue and heading to their district for August.

 

However, a number of Republicans (including potential GOP primary challengers to GOP Incumbents) are convinced that the August 2nd deadline is a fallacy and cite the number of different “drop dead” dates that Sec. Geithner has already proposed.  This is important because it could impact any potential compromise.  For most of these Members a vote against any compromise is safer because it would be helpful in fending off potential primary challenges from the right.  If August 2nd comes and goes without a clear indicator that interest rates will rise, these Republicans (and conservative media) will draw a conclusion that compromise was/or is not necessary, making House passage for any plan (other than their own) more difficult.  They will argue that the lack of market volatility up to today’s close proves their point.

 

Among these Republican Members (bolstered by conservative media), there is a PRE-August 2nd mentality and POST-August 2nd mentality in both the House and Senate.  If there were a clear indication that interest rates would rise before then, this would likely change the discussion and the urgency for supporting a compromise.

 

We see the following scenario going forward (which will continue to evolve over the weekend):

 

  1. House passes new bill.  The Senate defeats House plan, defeats Reid plan and McConnell and Reid forge consensus plan (likely scenarios include House GOP/Reid hybrid or 2-3 month short term extension).
    1. We believe consensus only gains traction in both chambers once it becomes clear that enough rank and file GOP Members indicate to their Leadership that it is time to pass compromise legislation.  OR
    2. August 2nd interest rate hikes become imminent and urgent compromise is viewed as necessary.
    3. Reid/McConnell compromise plan faces obstacles from both the right and left of both parties.  Conservative and Liberal constituencies will ensure compromise is difficult before August 2nd.

    Joe Stanton

    Senior Vice President

    NAHB

Updates from NAHB on AD&C, Interest Deduction and files comments on QRM’s

Help Build Support for AD&C Legislation and the Mortgage Interest Deduction

The introduction in May of the Home Construction Lending Regulatory Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1755) was a significant advancement in our overall AD&C strategy, and we need every member to contact their legislator to help build support for it. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) and Brad Miller (D-N.C.), would direct federal and state banking regulators to take specific steps that would restore liquidity, ensure that financial institutions that provide financing to America’s home builders are permitted to make loans, and provide stable financing to the residential building sector. The legislation was introduced with 31 original co-sponsors and now has 60. We are urging members to contact their representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation. Click here to find out how you can do your part. Also, when contacting your representative, ask them to co-sponsor H.Res. 25, which expresses the sense of Congress that the mortgage interest deduction should not be altered in any way. Rep. Gary Miller also introduced this resolution, which had more than 170 co-sponsors as of press time. Click here to read the resolution and see a list of the current co-sponsors.

NAHB Files Comments on Qualified Mortgages

NAHB filed comments on July 22  on the Federal Reserve Board’s proposed regulations implementing statutory changes made by the Dodd-Frank Act that expand the scope of the borrower ability-to-repay requirement to cover any consumer credit transaction secured by a dwelling. In addition, the proposal would establish standards for complying with the ability-to-repay requirement, by making a “qualified mortgage” (QM). NAHB urged the regulators to establish a bright-line safe harbor to define the QM to best ensure safer, well documented and underwritten loans without limiting the availability or increasing the costs of credit to borrowers. NAHB supports a QM safe harbor definition that promotes liquidity by providing consumers stronger protections than currently proposed by the board and that provides lenders definitive lending criteria that reduce excessive litigation exposure. The responsibility of issuing a final rule has been transferred to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which officially opened for business on July 21. Contact: Steve Linville (800-368-5242, x8597).

Debt Limit Debate Drags on to 11th Hour

August 1, 2011
Monday Morning
Briefing
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As this issue of Monday Morning Briefing goes to press, it is still uncertain whether a plan to raise the debt ceiling can pass both chambers of Congress before the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid a government default. After delaying a Thursday vote on his deficit reduction bill because he lacked the votes for passage, House Speaker John Boehner is expected to try again today (Friday). Even if Boehner’s bill to increase the debt limit clears the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  has declared it “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Reid’s own proposal to raise the federal debt ceiling is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to clear the upper chamber. This means that both sides will need to come up with a new compromise plan in a matter of days. While Republicans, Democrats and the White House agree unanimously that legislation to lift the debt ceiling must be passed, the question remains: What will happen to housing and the economy if lawmakers fail to pass a plan to raise the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline?

While no one knows for sure, it is expected that the bond rating agencies could downgrade the federal government’s AAA rating. This would reduce demand for U.S. Treasuries, which would lower bond prices and increase interest rates, resulting in higher costs for home mortgages, car loans and other consumer durables and business loans. An increase in mortgage rates would further weaken housing demand and place downward pressure on prices. A default would also fuel consumer uncertainty, keeping more potential home buyers on the sidelines. Meanwhile, the dispute over how to raise the debt ceiling is occurring in an environment full of housing policy debates, including the mortgage interest deduction, the expiration of conforming loan limits and proposed qualified residential mortgage regulations which would mandate minimum 20% downpayments.

NAHB is monitoring developments closely and urging the Administration and Congress to move quickly to address the debt ceiling, preserve current housing tax incentives and inject more certainty into the housing market with respect to housing policy and access to capital via the mortgage markets. This approach will help stabilize housing prices, thereby helping households repair balance sheets and setting the stage for more robust economic growth. To learn more, view NAHB’s blog on The Housing Market and the Debt Ceiling Debate. Contact: J.P. Delmore (800-368-5242, x8412).

Attention Remodelers! Update on Lead Rule Amendment

On behalf of Jon Luther, Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans and EO Liaison to the NAHB Remodelers Council:

There is still time for NAHB Remodelers members to make a difference on the Lead Paint Rule by contacting Congress to support the Rehberg amendment.

NAHB strongly supported an appropriations rider offered by Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., that would prevent the EPA from implementing or enforcing the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule until the agency recognizes a lead testing kit that meets the false positive and false negative criteria that its own regulation demands. With your help, the amendment was successfully passed by the committee. Now it’s up for a vote by the full House of Representatives and efforts are underway to try to remove it. Don’t let EPA skirt its own rules!

We want to keep children safe from the harmful effects of lead paint dust – and NAHB strongly supports the safe work practices that EPA already concedes are enough to protect children and pregnant women from potential exposure. Unfortunately, other consumers are paying the price because there’s no inexpensive way for them to test their way out of these requirements.

Please ask your Representative to oppose any efforts to remove Mr. Rehberg’s amendment from the bill – H.R. 2584. Let’s hold EPA accountable to the same regulation it seeks to impose on remodelers who are doing the right thing and losing jobs to uncertified contractors – or to consumers doing the work themselves – because of unwarranted compliance costs as a result of EPA’s inaction.

Go to www.congress.org to find contact information for your Representative – and send an email today!

Public Forums set for Aug. 4 and 11 on Delaware’s Progress Improving Water Quality in the Chesapeake Watershed

NEWS FROM DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL and the DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

 

Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902 or Anne Fitzgerald, Chief of Community Relations, DDA. 302-698-4520.

 

Public Forums set for Aug. 4 and 11 on Delaware’s Progress Improving Water Quality in the Chesapeake Watershed

 

(DOVER/SEAFORD, July 21, 2011) – Residents of Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed are invited to attend a public forum on the state’s progress in improving water quality in the rivers and streams that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. The public can meet one-on-one with scientists and engineers, learn about efforts underway to reduce pollutants from entering our waterways, and find out what actions individuals can take to make a difference in the health of the Watershed.

 

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011                                                 Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

6 to 8 p.m.                                                                    6 to 8 p.m.

Delaware Technical & Community College                  Seaford Volunteer Fire Company

Terry Campus                                                               302 E. King Street
100 Campus Drive                                                        Seaford, DE  19973

Dover, DE 19906

Conference Room 400 A/B

 

Approximately one-third of Delaware’s land drains into the Chesapeake Bay, including land in all three counties – about half of Sussex County’s land area and one third of Kent County. Delaware communities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed include: Middletown; Hartly: Farmington; Greenwood; Bridgeville; Seaford; Blades; Bethel; Laurel; and Delmar. The Watershed also includes some of the state’s most prized waterways:  Broad and Marshyhope Creeks; and the Nanticoke, Chester and Choptank Rivers.

 

Delaware’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed supports thousands of jobs, generates significant economic activity and provides valuable goods and services. Currently, Delaware’s rivers and streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay receive too much pollution for these waterways and the Bay to be healthy and productive. Restoring water quality will have far-reaching benefits for Delaware’s economic and environmental health.

 

At the forum on Aug. 4 DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and on Aug. 11 Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee will outline accomplishments of Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) – the state’s long-range plan for reducing pollutants from entering local waterways.

 

Last December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Delaware’s WIP (Phase I). The WIP, which was shaped by extensive public and stakeholder input, includes pollution reduction targets by geographic area and source – agriculture, urban stormwater, septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities.

 

Delaware is among six Chesapeake Bay Watershed states – Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York – and the District of Columbia committed to a federal-state initiative to develop a pollution “diet” that will help restore water quality of the Bay and its tidal waters by 2025, with 60 percent of the work to be completed by 2017.

 

At the forums, DNREC Environmental Scientist Jennifer Volk will make a presentation highlighting WIP Phase I and outlining the implementation goals for Phase II.  Delaware’s draft Phase II WIP, due to the EPA by Dec. 1, will include more detailed pollution reduction strategies at the local level and how resources needed for implementation will be secured. Forum attendees will learn how they can become involved in developing and implementing portions of the Phase II WIP.
Two workshops are being planned for later this fall that will include more information and opportunity for public input on the Draft Phase II WIP.

 

For more information, contact Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, Melanie.Rapp@state.de.us.

 

 

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Vol. 41, No. 277

Home Price Protection: The industry’s hottest new sales tool?

Later this week, Ryland (7/27), D.R. Horton (7/28), Pulte (7/28), Standard Pacific (7/28), M/I Homes (7/28), and Meritage (7/29) will all be releasing results for calendar 2Q2011. Given Lennar, KB Home, and NVR’s recent sales results, few are holding out for blockbuster results from the rest of the public builder set. But getting a feel for just how much each of the publics struggled during the latest quarter offers a pretty good indication of how the year is going to finish out for each of them.And for those builders whose performance came up short against plan during the most recent quarter, the pressure is on to figure out how to make up lost ground before the close of their fiscal years.

During years past, it’s been all about the second quarter for builders. They had to lock up as many new orders as possible to allow themselves enough time to get the homes built and closed before the end of the year. But today, given the shift from dirt sales to spec sales, the good news is the runway for nabbing new orders is longer, taking off some of the pressure to perform in the second quarter. Builders can continue to sell through the third quarter and a little beyond and still be able to book the revenue in the current year. That’s a plus.

But if demand doesn’t improve in the back half of the year, many builders could be looking at having a bunch of finished standing inventory at the end of the year on top of too few sales and closings. This all adds up to a period of increasing sales promotions and incentivizing as builders push to make up for sales that didn’t happen in the second quarter without getting caught with a bunch of unsold spec homes on their books at the end of the year.

But what kind of incentive could really motivate buyers at this point? Seems like we’ve seen it all already-price discounts, free upgrades and options, tax credits, mortgage rate buy downs, energy cost guarantees. And while these types of programs are successful to some degree or another, they still don’t necessarily give many buyers the confidence they need to feel good about buying a home now versus later.

But Equity Lock Solutions recently came up with a program that may be the boost of confidence that many buyers need to pull the trigger on a home purchase. The program, called Home Price Protection, essentially offers buyers a chance to recoup dollars if home prices in their local market declined at the time that they sell their homes-even if their homes’ values haven’t declined.

The program may sound like an insurance policy, but it’s not; really it’s a contract. Under the terms, the home buyer pays between 1% and 3% of the home purchase price, depending on the market, for the assurance that Equity Lock will pay the buyer (up to a set amount) if home prices decline in the market, as determined by the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index (HPI). This means that really the only way buyers in the program fail to receive a payout from Equity Lock when they eventually sell their homes is if they sell their houses for more than they bought them for and home prices in their local markets increased. (Check out this page on the company’s Web site to see how the program works in three different scenarios.)

The program was launched in April, but it’s just recently that the company inked deals with two major real estate brokerages–Re/Max and Keller Williams–to add the program to agents’ arsenal of sales tools. The company is also working with lenders to allow buyers to roll the program into their mortgages.

Like any incentive program, there are costs to the advertised benefits, so where a program of this ilk makes sense depends largely on the local market dynamics. But what the development of this type of incentive underscores is that the industry still has some real, deep-seeded issues significantly holding back demand. Buyers remain afraid that home prices are still falling. It’s hard for them to justifying buying a home that could be worth less than they paid for it when they need to sell it. Whether or not the kind of confidence buyers need can be canned and turned into a sales tool remains to be seen, but for some builders it may be worth a shot.

High Regulatory Costs for New Homes Another Obstacle to Housing Recovery, Study Finds

A new paper from NAHB’s Economics and Housing Policy Group finds that the hefty price home buyers are paying for government regulations represents just one more obstacle that home builders need to overcome in restoring the marketplace to normal conditions.

On average, regulations imposed by governments at all levels account for 25% of the final price of a new single-family home built for sale, the study finds.

Nearly two-thirds of this regulatory burden — 16.4% of the final price of the house — is imposed during the development of the land, resulting in a higher-priced finished lot.

About one-third — 8.6% of the house price — is the result of the construction costs incurred by the builder after purchasing the finished lot.

“Housing has run into enough stumbling blocks on the road to recovery — including consumer worries over jobs and the economy and tighter mortgage lending standards,” said Bob Nielsen, chairman of NAHB and a builder from Reno, Nev.

“Government regulation can be added to that list,” Nielsen said. “In many housing markets, appraisals are still coming in below the cost of building the home. We have also seen the cost of construction materials rise, a cost that is difficult to pass through to price-conscious home buyers. The addition of the high cost of government regulations pushes the selling price even higher.”

Nielsen noted that some jurisdictions have been easing up on their various impact and permitting fees in response to today’s lean times, and he said that more need to review the impact of their regulations on the new residential construction that is pivotal to restoring local jobs and tax revenue.

Employment in residential construction is down almost 1.5 million from its peak, and about an equal number of jobs have been lost in related industries — such as manufacturing, trade and professional services — because of the sharp downturn in home building.

Higher regulatory costs are “particularly significant in the current environment,” the study says, “when there is a low level of developed land in the pipeline, as many builders have stopped acquiring single-family lots and developers have stopped developing them.”

The NAHB study says that development and construction standards are also having an adverse impact on builders and developers, either by directly raising their costs or slowing the process down, which is also costly.

States play a role in their adoption of building codes and by passing laws that enable local governments to impose impact fees, the study says, and “the federal government can also affect the cost of a home — for example, by requiring permits for stormwater discharge on construction sites, which may lead to delays in addition to the hard cost of filing for a permit.”

Of the 8.6% of the final house price attributable to regulatory costs paid by a builder after purchasing a lot, 3.6% comes from the cost of actual fees, and the rest is the result of the cost of changes to construction codes and standards over the past 10 years, the study finds.

Regionally, the impact of code changes on construction costs is higher in the Northeast and West than in the Midwest and South.

The construction fees paid by builders are highest in the West, which includes California, where certain types of fees are especially expensive.

In a 2010 survey of impact fees conducted by Duncan Associates, for example, California’s average impact fee for a standard single-family home was nearly $32,000 — more than twice the average fee in Oregon, the state with the next most expensive fees.

The report includes a breakdown of cost impacts from different categories of regulation, which may be useful for local jurisdictions trying to assess how they can improve the affordability of new homes.

The results of the study are based on special questions on regulation included in the monthly NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index survey, which is sent to a panel of single-family builders, a significant portion of whom have experience in land development.

Associated costs were included, using average long-term assumptions about loan terms, profit margins and time lags between different phases of the construction project.

To read the report, “How Government Regulation Affects the Price of a New Home,” click here.

For more information, email Paul Emrath, the author of the study, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8449.

Rule Interpretation to Impact Self-Financing, Contract-to-Deed Builders

Under HUD’s newly published interpretation of mandatory minimum standards for residential loan originators imposed by the Secure and Fair Enforcement Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act), builder/vendors who “habitually and repeatedly” offer self-financing or contract to deed arrangements for the purchase of residential property may be required to be licensed as a loan originator. The SAFE Act directed all the states to enact licensing legislation for residential loan originators in accordance with mandatory minimum standards, and HUD’s final rule interpreting those standards appeared in the June 30 Federal Register. This rule becomes effective on Aug.29.

 

The SAFE Act defines “loan originators” as individuals who take residential loan applications and offer or negotiate residential mortgages for compensation or gain. And while it is primarily intended to regulate the practices of banks and other commercial residential mortgage providers, in HUD’s view it can apply to builders. For details on requirements that loan originators must meet to be licensed under the SAFE Act, please see this article in Nation’s Building News.

Self-Financing

In its final rule, HUD provided the “clarification” that individuals who must be licensed under the SAFE Act are those who “habitually and repeatedly” engage in the business of a loan originator for a commercial gain. Unfortunately, by deliberately declining to define the parameters of the term “habitually and repeatedly,” HUD has left it to the discretion of individual enforcement authorities — and ultimately the courts — to determine the amount of loan originator activity, including self-financing transactions, that can be safely undertaken before licensing is required.

Contract to Deeds

Since the SAFE Act defined a “residential mortgage loan” as any loan primarily for personal, family or household use that is secured by a mortgage, deed of trust or other equivalent consensual security interest, and since these are not involved in contract to deed transactions, it was believed that the SAFE Act did not apply. But in its commentary on the rule, HUD took the opposite position, stating that installment sales contracts are “the practical equivalent of a lien,” and that “‘equivalent consensual security interests’ specifically include installment sales contracts, consistent with the treatment of many states of such contracts in the same manner as mortgages.” It remains to be seen whether the courts will sustain HUD’s position on this issue. In the meantime, builder/vendors who want to use contract to deeds are advised to consult with a local real estate attorney.

One further complication has been raised by the new Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which transferred all HUD’s SAFE Act authority and duties to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as of July 21. It is not known how consistent the bureau’s interpretation of the SAFE Act minimum standards for loan originators will be with the positions taken by HUD. Please see this article in Nation’s Building News for more, or contact: David Crump (800-368-5242, x8491).

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